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If Thou Must Love Me by Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Grey's Poetry Pages

Dec. 20th, 2007 09:31 pm If Thou Must Love Me by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This is a poet recommended by my mummy. This poem goes nicely with the previous poem. It, too is about love. If you read it by the sentence instead of by the line on your first read through, it will help with the understanding. Read it now!


The first two lines (the first sentence) are a passionate plea to the listener. The poet says that any love she has coming to her should be for love's sake alone. In the second through sixth lines, one long sentence points out several reasons that one should NOT love her. For her smile, or how she looks, or that her thinking matches his on some points which makes life pleasurable for a while--all of these are not reasons to love her.

Lines 7-9 tell her reasons for not wanting to be loved for those things. She says that those things are all things that are subject to change. If someone loves her for those things and then they change, then it seems that the love they feel would change also. These things are so tenuous that basing love on them seems risky to the poet.

The rest of line 9 through line 12 are my favorites. She says that she doesn't want to be loved out of pity. All too often, people mistake pity and wanting to make someone feel better for tender feeling or love. She says that that's the riskiest reason of all, since the love given to the poor, pitiful person would make them feel better and stop being so pitiful. Then, the pity would dry up and so, too, would the love.

The last two lines state the whole purpose of the sonnet. She says that the only good reason to love her is for love's sake only. I enjoy the whole poem much more than the previous poem, since I don't agree with Shakespeare's intimation that love is a steadfast, unchanging thing. This poem is more realistic, I think and admits that love will change as the people feeling it change. I really, really wish that I could understand the whole for love's sake thing. It's the only part of the poem that doesn't speak to me. I've heard the old saying that "someone isn't in love, he's in love with being in love," and that's what she seems to be saying. Love me because you love being in love. That seems precarious to me. If someone is loving just for the sake of loving, it seems that anyone could satisfy their need for an object. I would love to hear your opinions of those last two lines.

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2 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share


Date:December 22nd, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)

Explaining the love thing

How many people have tried to put words to the meaning of love? Anyone who has ever lived has tried to define this emotion -- or whatever it is! It is, indeed, a dedication. The phrase "for love's sake" means she wants loved for herself, no matter what her mood or age or physical state, not because he's infatuated with some aspect of her being, or getting an ego boost by making her feel better when down. Loving someone as defined in the wedding vows is an awesome thing, it means loving through the attractiveness of youth on into age and infirmity. And so on. I'm sure I could spout more on this subject, but I'm afraid I'll start sounding repetitious or something, so I'll go finish the dishes.... I'm still pondering the last poem! I'm going to end up so confused I won't know what to think... whoops, too late!!!! Love to YOU, Grey--- GM
Date:December 23rd, 2007 03:01 am (UTC)

Re: Explaining the love thing

Great. Tidings of love from someone who has no idea what love is. Just what I always wanted. I am sorry that these two poems confused you. I thought that the two differing views on love would help to figure out which one you agreed with. I definitely like Browning's poem better. I love your interpretation of the last two lines. I was thinking too literally. Love me simply for the all-encompassing "me" rather than pieces of me. Everything about someone can change but their basic identity remains. Love to you too,